Over 14 years working in one small community newspaper editorial department, I've had the honor to work with dozens of talented, hard-working, principled and passionate journalists. I've written about their accomplishments and expressed my pride in their service to the people who live and work in the Cayuga County area.
What I've not done is written about their personal lives. And I'm not going to start with this column.
But a recent comment made amid the gun control debate by a national personality has motivated me to give our readers just a snapshot of the experiences those of us working at The Citizen have shared with each other.
We've prayed over and cried with colleagues who have fought serious illnesses, and a few times over the last 14 years, we've grieved when those friends passed away. We've celebrated as co-workers have gone through the joys of getting married and having children. We've talked each other through all kinds of life challenges — buying homes, dealing with difficult landlords, finding reliable doctors and dentists, electricians and exterminators. We've been the first people to give a hug after a gut-wrenching phone call — sometimes with a source who just shared a heart-breaking story ... sometimes with a family member in a newly unfolding crisis. We've made each other coffee or hot chocolate when someone has returned from a bitterly cold crime or fire scene and can't feel their fingers to start typing. We've stepped up for each other when someone needs to leave to be with their parents or siblings or grandparents. We've stood up for each other when we find someone is being unfairly maligned. We've welcomed new employees into the community and told them all about the cool things to see and do. We've said goodbye to staffers who are relocating to other places and shared memories of the great experiences.
In other words, we're probably a lot like your workplace. We are all human beings trying to make a positive difference and hopefully experience some peace and happiness along with the way, to go with the anxiety and sadness that life brings all of us.
I've heard from sources and readers a few times over the year express that because of what we do as journalists, we must have no souls. That we somehow must be subhuman. It's never easy to take such criticism, but it's almost always coming from another person going through a painful moment in life. That context matters.
What I cannot fathom, however, is how a national organization's spokeswoman can try to stoke public hatred of the media by claiming that "many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now, I'm not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you."
News media in this country have been under a heavy barrage of attacks in this country over the past two years, but that may be the most despicable yet.
I'm not calling for everyone to stand up and praise journalists; we don't need people to throw us a parade. I'm not saying we should be immune from harsh criticism when we do a poor job. I'm not even asking for an occasional word of thanks.
What I do request, though, is that people remember that the men and women working in the news media — from the reporters you watch on CNN and Fox to the journalists whose work you see in The Citizen — are deeply affected by what they see and report on every day. We are people just like you.